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My Personal Clashes with Liberalism: The Passion of the Left

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Despite the dearth of articles that discuss the subject of Scriptural Inerrancy, my kinks with the left has always revolved around the same things they do not go for—facts, facts, and lots of facts. One can argue endlessly on the subject of Scriptural Inerrancy, relentlessly pointing out the most obvious problems; however, if these do not square away with the basis of their emotional reasoning, there is not much a Christian could really do save that s/he to leave the Left alone and remain a true and faithful witness to the Word of God. While I am open to maintaining a firm relationship with the critics, I am going to remain firm on the subject of inerrancy, especially when it comes to discussing the most obvious.

The reason why I bring this subject up is to point out (once again) that rejecting fundamentalism does not mean that we should reject the doctrines that the Scriptures are explicitly clear upon: its claim to inerrancy. For this very reason, I do not drift to the left, reaffirming a love for a Jesus that exists out of the whims of an emotional sentiment and arbitrary adherence to Scriptural practice. I did not come to this conclusion because I had been ‘brainwashed’ and does not like to take the Words of Jesus ‘seriously;’ I came to this conclusion by means of faith—by means of which require that I would have to accept the Scriptures entirety as divine revelation.

But to make this point clearer, I want to deliver a compare-contrast between what is said here and what happens whenever someone decides to reject the authority of the Scriptures. I am not going to say much on the subject altogether, except to run with a list of some essentially relevant facts that any ‘emotionally intelligent’ reader should be able to grasp without necessarily trying to pull the ‘Jesus/ ‘J’ Card’ (for those who are wondering what is meant by this—it is a term I use for those who try to appeal to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount as a copout whenever they face real problematic issues with the Old Testament).

Chuck McKnight is a case in point.

In his blog post entitled, The Image of God and a New Proposal for Resolving Old Testament Violence, there is very little substance to the proposition of what the real issues are concerning the nature of ‘violence’ in the Old Testament. The best proposition Chuck asserts for his audience is what’s been regurgitated by postmodern scholars and they can be summarized as follows:

  1. Moses—the traditional author of the Law—wrote the creation accounts in reflection from a collection of Near Eastern Mythology.
  1. The Old Testament writers—those whose books advocated the ideologies of violence—were simply mistaken from understanding who God really is because God just gave them the privilege to speak on his behalf.
  1. The Old Testament writers—whose books advocated teachings that disagree with the Postmodern Audiences—contain misstatements from God because ‘God is love…period1.’

And, as one can see, this is the ‘best’ that McKnight has to offer.

There are reasons why I said this ‘God is love’ crap has to go; the God of the New Testament is NOT a pacifist hippy—if the real messages of God one happens to find can only be found in any KJV New Testament that has all the words of Jesus Christ written in RED, then perhaps that same Christian is, really, an idiot. One cannot possibly do away with the sheer force of the Old Testament by using clichés found on the back of a soda can—God is love, God is love, God is love—this is not going to go well with the predecessors set before the arrival of the messiah. Those within the Reformed community who adhere to the orthodox teachings of Scriptural Inerrancy have better reasoning for their doctrine much more so than the audiences who fawn over McKnight’s posts.

(And if you are not willing to make it this far without discarding emotional reasoning and use some critical thinking, this post really isn’t for you. Sorry.)

Let’s start with the most basic assertion to Chuck’s argument namely, this ‘Moses-was-reflecting-mythology-in-the-near-east’ theory (this should be regarded as a ‘hypothesis’—no scholar to date has actual proof that this happened and they entertain this ideal infallibly because they cannot fathom the idea of a ‘cruel and unjust God’). Truly, this claim really isn’t new—Moses, as a person borne in the image of God, is considered by most as someone who was merely reflecting ideals that was typical to the people who were in the Near East. This whole theory can be easily explained by spending a few hours watching the History Channel; most ‘experts resort to this de facto position to portray any person—particularly, candidates who support the orthodox position of Scriptural Inerrancy—as a bunch of kooks.

But is this how the Old Testament paints Moses?

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.–Exodus 33:11 ESV

The above verse is just the tip of the iceberg of Scriptural declarations that shows that Moses was not writing things “as responses…to accounts given by surrounding nations2”; to the contrary, you have a writer who functions as the recipient of divine revelation in one of the clearest expressions on the face of the planet. One cannot simply ignore this: Moses was talking to God, face to face, on a continual basis from the time God appeared to him in the burning bush at Mt. Sinai (which, I tend to think is the Lord Christ Jesus Himself—something McKnight fails to consider in his religious wanderings) to the point where Moses died. To dismiss the transitions’ centrality of revelation from God to man and the employed means thereof is to show complete ignorance and denial of the Scriptures themselves.

As if those mean nasty conservatives were promoting hate this entire time.

Moses was not leading a people with an empty hand—the transmission of divine revelation came with a crafty set of perks—Moses had direct, face to face, access with God Himself, talking to a friend. But with respect to the wanderings in the wilderness, the opposition to Moses’s leadership was not something that happened rarely. For forty years, the Israelites had challenged Moses again and again because they did not believe a single word spoken by him. Many had thought he made a lot of mistakes on the road. Many thought he was deceiving the people by promoting laws that they despised. Many even thought this man was no prophet at all.

I wish that Chuck and Korah could meet; perhaps, it’s high time that should spend some time together sharing ideas about Moses’s ‘mistaken’ leadership.

Which brings me to another point about the Scripture’s depictions of Moses’s leadership—divine anecdotes. In Numbers 16, the reader shall be able to find the genuine opposition of Korah the most convincing—he thought everyone within Moses’s congregation were sufficiently holy, and perhaps believed that the divine leadership had somewhat gone astray. Did Korah managed to have a following for his tenacity? Certainly, and with the gathering of 250 persons to offer incense to God, he was bound to successfully coerce Moses to share the leadership with a new leader who had ‘better insight.’

But what happened?

And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” –Numbers 16:20-21 ESV

This postmodern idea of Moses being simply mistaken in his leadership flies in the face of these anecdotes. God was not going to tolerate Korah’s rebellion; there was a price to pay for this incident: hellfire. This group of men (and perhaps women and children) were immediately swallowed up by the earth, only to make their new homes in the pits of hell or as the Bible describes it, Sheol. Those seeking to make an offering to Lord without His permission was consumed immediately by fire—by the incinerated remains, thus these men had become holy. If skeptics would learn from this anecdote, it would be pretty clear that questioning the integrity of the reception of divine revelation was unwarranted.

As if that stopped Miriam and Aaron.

Because some of the congregation had witnessed to divine events, it was clear that some of them thought that God was speaking to someone else besides Moses—apparently, the divine revelation as recorded by him simply had to be ‘mistaken.’ This is obvious in the rhetorical devices expressed within the Scriptures: “And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” –Numbers 12:2 ESV

To which, the Bible records, as something God heard.

But here’s the ironic part: rather than coming up with this groovy, feel good response to the Scriptures, God invited the three of them to appear at the tent of meeting, which thus they did. “And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent,” which is an act of divine intervention, contrary to populist means of interpretation (Numbers 12:5), and God says the following: “If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream” –Numbers 12:6. In other words, God was saying (in a kind way) “if I wanted your opinion, I would’ve asked for it; I would’ve made of this pretty clear by now.” Thus notice the latter part of what God shares with Aaron and Miriam: “Not so with my servant Moses….with him, I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” –Numbers 12:7-8.

Compare this with McKnight’s explanations for the Pentateuch:

“We first need to understand what the image of God signifies. There are many ideas about the image of God, and some of them seem more likely than others, but most of them are simply speculations. That’s because the Bible in itself nowhere offers a definition for the image of God.

….The image of God is one such concept that was taken directly from ancient Near Eastern mythology. According to the surrounding nations, the reigning king bore the image of god. This meant that he, and he alone, ruled as his god’s representative on earth. When he spoke, he spoke on his god’s authority as if his god had spoken himself.

….Before humankind fell into sin, we were perfect image bearers. But when we fell, God did not take away our image-bearing status. We became imperfect image bearers, but we still bear God’s image, rule as his representatives, and speak with the authority he gave us3.”

So much for McKnight’s propositional hypothesis.

The problem behind the claim itself ignores the biblical anecdote; just as Aaron and Miriam weren’t afraid of questioning the leadership of Moses, McKnight takes a lot of brazen jabs at Moses by trying to say that the works of the assumed author—Moses—was a concoction of reflective ideologies from the surrounding nations in the near east. Sadly, Chuck’s claim does not hold much weight—God’s declarations as revealed in the laws themselves were intended to set the Nation of Israel apart from the surrounding nations, which includes its histories and ideologies.

Moreover, McKnight’s claim that ‘the Bible itself nowhere offers a definition for the image of God’ is pure nonsense because the laws delivered to Moses, including how these laws were delivered in its entirety, is an expression of his character, which functions also as part of the image that McKnight claims to be found nowhere in the Scriptures. But this is not what the blogger wishes for his audience to see—apparently those darn conservatives are too stupid and too ignorant to see that everyone needs to get with the postmodern program of enlightenment that has been ongoing since the time of St. Augustine (I say this because a small blip within his work of Confessions reveals that some of his friends questioned the Scripture’s inerrancy also).

While I am planning to write more on the subject concerning McKnight’s second point—the idea of the Old Testament writers simply misunderstanding the revelations of God, I want to make a pause here so that the audience can take a minute or so to compare the explanations McKnight has to offer in contrast with the pictures the Scriptures paint for its claims. If McKnight’s assertions are correct by any stretch of the imagination, the Pentateuch composition would be regarded with differences in composition and method of delivery; however, the picturesque depictions and the concise details in the entirety of the Scriptural accounts do not make this so.

And with the absolute certainty that several persons have gone before and questioned the leadership of Moses—e.g. Aaron, Miriam, and Korah’s company—the audience would have to come to a conclusive decision: either the presuppositions and speculative ideologies that McKnight posits for his audiences are true—in light of the line of other progressive academics: Peter Enns, Benjamin Corey, Brian Zahnd, Derek Flood, etc. or upon receiving these descriptive anecdotes of the Scriptures, lay the challenge of these passages at the feet of these leaders in hopes of them finding a better explanation, which would further result in the following: if there is a more concise if not in depth explanation for these instances, probe these men into further questioning or, if upon their rejection of taking these passage into consideration, discard their theories and pronounce their views as antithetical to Christianity.

My gut feeling, despite all that I have posited as a means of providing a possible challenge, tends to gravitate toward the latter parts of the propositions.

Parker

Notes:

  1. Access to this blog post can be found here.
  2. Whenever someone makes God’s love the basis of his or her theology, oftentimes, those same persons will reject the Scriptures because it doesn’t fit his or her definition of what love ‘ought to be.’
  3. Propositions that does not take portions of the Old Testament into consideration are not biblical ones at all.
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